246 VERDICT OX INDIA that ravages hi^ crops, poisons his soil and destroys, year after k year, his most patient efforts to drag himself a few inches above the level of slavery, is an exceptionally virulent insect known as the "banya/ Banya is Hindu for mor^ey-lender and a nastier specimen of blood-sucker will not be found in the whole insect kingdom. You find him in every village, demanding his pounds of flesh from bodies already so weakened that they could scarcely spare an ounce. The money-lender is the real owner of the Indian land ; generations of indebtedness have placed the peasants in a tragic position where the combined labour of their families is only just sufficient to meet the interest on transactions so ancient that they are lost in the mists of history. £It is estimated that the farmers of India pay more to the money-lender by way of interest than to the Government as taxes. The average rate is 35 per cent per annum on a compound basis; 50 per cent is common and sometimes 75 per cent is charged.'1 This is an abuse that we should have eradicated at all costs. We have only trifled with it. In the Punjab, legislation has re- stricted the rate of interest on unsecured debts to 18 per cen£ and the Provincial Ministry in Madras passed a Rural Indebted- $ess Act which was admirably designed. Otherwise the situation, stands much as, it has stood for many centuries. There are three main stumbling blocks in the path of those who wish to eliminate the banya. The first is—as usual—vested interests. There are big men behind the banyas ; they arc sitting pretty, and they will be sitting even prettier if the British leave. The second is administrative; an army of inspectors with widespread powers of search and inquiry will be needed to see that any reforms which may be passed are actually carried out. The third is the traditional lethargy and elive-for-the-moment% character of the peasant him- self. Some may find physical reasons for this lethargy ; others may attribute it to the Hindu doctrine of Karma, which can be twisted to mean more or less anything the believer wants, and is the best excuse yet invented by man for avoiding the unpleasant realities! of the passing hour. Whatever the reason, the peasant must tJfe 1 The Story of India, by F. K. Moraes (Noble Publishing House, Bombay).